Pregnancy: Tips and advice on breastfeeding

When you find out you’re expecting a baby, there are lots of things to consider. It may feel like you have an endless shopping list, and now some extra, but hopefully, enjoyable DIY to do for the nursery! As well as planning prenatal classes and birth plans. However, a topic of conversation which should also be taken into account is thinking about how you will feed your baby once they are born.

Pregnant mums conversing in a group intervention

Most women are fully aware that breast milk and breastfeeding bring huge amounts of benefits for you and your baby. But perhaps you have heard some stories which are making you question whether you really want to go down this feeding path. For some new mums there are challenges that come with breastfeeding at the beginning. So, in this post we thought we’d share some tips about breastfeeding, which can be really handy to know whilst you are still pregnant, and hopefully they give you some confidence and reassurance.

What can I do to prepare for breastfeeding during pregnancy?

  • Breast changes are normal during pregnancy. Breast and nipple shape, size and areola pigmentation (colour) change as your pregnancy progresses. Some women have significant breast growth during pregnancy whilst others see the changes only after the birth of their baby. All women’s breasts are different and size really doesn’t matter in terms of how much milk you will be able to make. Of course, we all make different volumes of milk at different times of the day so babies are able to get what they need. So don’t worry that the women in your prenatal classes have bigger or smaller or different breasts than you. This is very normal and part of nature. If we were all the same, it would be rather boring! However, if you do have any concerns about breast growth or the shape or size of your breasts, don’t hesitate to discuss this with your midwife, your doctor or seek out a lactation consultant during your pregnancy.
  • You might start to leak a little bit of colostrum during your second trimester, but do not worry if you don’t see it; again, we are all different and some women will leak while others will not. You can be certain that your amazing pregnancy hormones are not only growing your beautiful baby but also preparing your breasts to make colostrum around this stage.
  • Make sure you have a comfortable and supportive maternity and nursing bra; this is an essential for both pregnancy and breastfeeding.
  • If you notice that your nipples are flat (e.g. they don’t point outwards even with stimulation) or they are inverted (point inwards), firstly don’t panic! Please be reassured that whilst all breasts are created differently, most babies have no problem at all latching on well. However, for some babies they may need a little extra help at the beginning. If your nipples are inverted or flat it is recommended that you talk with your midwife or a breastfeeding specialist during your pregnancy.
  • Pop into a local breastfeeding support group to chat with other breastfeeding women, this may be a social media chat group or a class arranged by your midwife or a local breastfeeding organisation. Mum-to-mum support is essential and it is always great to learn top tips and get some practical support and advice from others who have experienced breastfeeding first hand.
  • Breastfeeding when you are on the go out of the home can take a bit of organisation, so do some investigative research: find out before the baby arrives where it would feel comfortable and nice to breastfeed when you are out and about. Places in and around your local community may have ‘breastfeeding welcome here’ signs to welcome breastfeeding mothers. Be sure to pass on the recommendations to others when you have found a place that is supportive, friendly and where you were made to feel comfortable to breastfeed! Let’s spread the word!
  • Find and keep your local support group telephone number, social media support chat room in your phone as well as the national helplines on the fridge so you have these close at hand if you need them.
  • Chat with all your family members and tell them how important it is for you to get their support, particularly during the first few weeks whilst you are learning to breastfeed and even in the months which follow once you’re mastering it! Many women say that being able to have support from their partner or friends with extra help around the house, or some extra time for themselves is a lifesaver in those early days; e.g. a nicely stocked freezer of meals to save time on cooking when you are really hungry and naturally baby wants to feed at that exact time, someone who pops in that pile of washing into the machine for you, or even the person who comes and gives you a gentle massage on your shoulders during a breastfeed can feel like the best ’present’ ever. Even what may seem to an outsider as just a little help here and there, actually makes a huge difference when you are a new mother. Talking with your family, friends and your partner about this now during your pregnancy, rather than after, once the baby is born is both really important and much easier. In those early weeks it is highly likely that you will be very tired and a lot of your time will be taken up with feeding. As time goes on things get much easier and you will get more efficient, luckily, but it can be really helpful to know that there is lots of willing support just a text away, or even better already booked in!
  • Breastfeeding essentials and accessories which you may find helpful:
    • Your local breastfeeding support number
    • Nipple cream such as Purelan to moisturise and keep your nipples in tip-top health
    • A nursing pillow – to support your seating position and/or to support your arms when positioning baby into a breastfeeding hold
    • A good maternity/nursing bra
    • Bra pads in case you leak some milk over the course of the day
    • Family visits with generous offers of assistance, meals, chores and buckets full of motivation, encouragement and reassurance.
    • Be realistic with what you can achieve: take time to recover after birth, pace yourself and remember to enjoy this time of newness and transition into your new role as a mother. Making time to sit in skin-to-skin contact and gaze into your baby eyes is never wasted time, this is where we get to experience some of the most beautiful moments with our new bundles of joy.
References

1 Cox DB et al. Breast growth and the urinary excretion of lactose during human pregnancy and early lactation: Endocrine relationships. Exp Physiol. 1999; 84(2):421–434.

2 Wambach K, Spencer B, editors. Breastfeeding and human lactation. Sixth edition. Burlington Massachusetts: Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2021. 807 p